How Do I Make My Dog Stop Licking His Paws?

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“How do I make my dog stop licking his paws?” is an excellent question.  However, before we talk about how to stop this behavior, it might be a good idea to discover what is causing it.  Maybe finding out what causes the licking – and resolving that cause – will also stop the licking, 

It may be signaling something serious; it may not. 

Can we go home, now!

We Worry

There are so many reasons why a dog will lick her paws.  She could have dry skin, or she could be suffering from an infection.  The problem could be one of many, including common household irritants – like dust mites, pet dander, cigarette smoke, cleaning chemicals, food sensitivities or even allergies. In any case, as the Mom or Dad of the house, it can be very upsetting – worrying, even – if any of our babies is suffering in any way – and it really doesn’t matter whether that baby is human or canine.  It still breaks your heart, and you desperately want to find out what can be done! 

So, let’s see what we can see.

A Few Answers to “How Do I Make My Dog Stop Licking Her Paws?”

Grooming

According to the American Kennel Club, occasional paw licking is normal.  It’s part of your dog’s grooming process. 

Pain

Maybe she stepped on something when you were out walking.  If she’s just licking one paw, and this behavior just recently started, perhaps a small rock got caught between her toes, and it hurts.  Check her paws and remove the irritant. That should stop the licking. 

It’s also possible the ground was too hot, and our little girl’s paws got burned.  You can handle that with a First Aid Kit and a lot of love.

Other Irritants

She may have stepped on something sharp.  Was she stung by a bee?  Does she have a blister?  All these call for more love and First Aid attention.  If that doesn’t do the trick, then a trip to the vet seems in order. 

Parasites

“A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.”  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Fleas and ticks are a couple of examples of parasites that might be irritating your dog.  They can cause the itchiness that causes the paw-licking.  Your vet can offer treatment(s) for your pooch to ease the problem. 

Sooo sad…

Food

Have you started feeding your dog a different kind of food?  Maybe she’s allergic to it! 

If your fur baby has food sensitivities or allergies, inspect labels – assure yourself that what you are feeding him is allergen-free.  Talk with your vet; should a certain ingredient be limited or eliminated?  Would a different diet be more beneficial? 

I have heard that identifying allergies is hard, and sometimes you have to eliminate all food, then gently re-introduce foods until you discover the culprit.  We might be able to sidestep a visit to the vet this time, right? 

Arthritis

Of course you know that dogs might lick one of their front paws when the paw hurts, but did you know they might lick a paw when they are experiencing pain in another part of their body?  

He might lick that paw when the pain is in his hip – or some other part of his body.  I guess that’s kind of like rubbing your knee when a part of your body hurts, but you can’t reach it – so you get a little relief by rubbing an accessible part.  Yes.  Vet time. 

Dermatitis

“Atopic dermatitis is a pruritic (itchy) skin disease of dogs and cats. With this condition, an allergic reaction occurs when an animal inhales airborne substances (pollen, house dust) or ingests a substance to which they are sensitive. The allergic reaction causes the animal to rub, lick, bite or scratch. Unlike man, animals with atopic dermatitis only occasionally cough, sneeze or get asthma. Instead, they itch.”  (Blue Pearl Pet Hospital)

Dermatitis could also result from your dog’s physical reaction to chemicals in your yard or in grass or weeds.  A way to alleviate this pain is to gently wash her feet when you come back from a walk.  (This is a good time to check for foreign matter, too.) 

For a dog with dermatitis, hot, humid summer weather can pose skin difficulties.  At the same time, a dog with dry skin can have an equally unpleasant experience in dry winter months due to the lack of humidity.  It’s important to maintain a comfortable climate in the home – air conditioning in the summer months and humidifiers in the winter, both of which can provide great comfort for your pooch – not to mention yourself. 

Boredom

Good, old-fashioned “I got nothing else to do” boredom could be another reason for the licking! 

If you can’t find anything else wrong, if you’ve visited the vet and she can’t find a problem, your dog could simply be BORED. 

The way to address that is to find some things for her to do.  Maybe more walks and other kinds of outings.  You may not want to, but more exercise might help get rid of those love handles while getting rid of the licking!  You can’t beat “two birds with one stone”! 

If you’re not “feeling” the walking, then provide her with more mind-stimulating toys, more horseplay and other activities that will take her mind off licking those paws.  

Of course, the sooner you address this problem and eliminate the cause, the better. 

One way to alleviate boredom is with dog training.

I don’t feel so hot.

A Visit to the Vet

If the paw licking is incessant and there is also bleeding, swelling, limping or other indications, your best bet is to see a veterinarian at your earliest convenience!  They have tools to use to help them get to the bottom of the issue and help your dog get well. 

How Do I Know The Licking Is Persistent?

Of course, you’ve SEEN her licking her paws.  You aren’t with your dog ALL the time – so, even though you’ve seen her licking her paws, how do you KNOW the licking is persistent?  Here are some sure clues. 

Stains on Fur

If she is constantly licking her paws, they will be saliva-stained.  Visibly. 

Wounds 

Are her paws red, inflamed, or swollen? 

Skin Infection 

Do you see evidence of skin infection?

Some Remedies for Paw-Licking 

Divert Attention

One way to handle paw licking is to divert your dog’s attention to something else.  Perhaps you can walk more often (or in other directions), you can play with your dog, you can provide her with toys that get her mind off her paws.  Your vet can give additional ideas, too. 

Treats

Don’t scold her for licking her paws.  (She isn’t “being a bad girl.”)  When she isn’t paw licking, however, you can praise her and give her rewards for NOT doing it. 

Fleas

If the problem is fleas, your vet will prescribe or suggest products you can use to get rid of those critters and ease or eliminate the problem. 

Dry Skin

Dry skin could be the culprit.  If so, try an over-the-counter skin treatment to (at least) make her feel a little better. 

You can also bathe her less often. 

Methods That Definitely DO NOT Work

Spraying Her Feet

“Spray your dog’s feet with cayenne pepper.  That’ll make her stop.”  The all-knowing “they” also told my sister to spray my niece’s thumb with it.  It’ll make her stop sucking her thumb! 

You know what that did?  It made her love cayenne pepper. 

Yelling “No!” and “Stop that!”

Do YOU respond well to yelling?  Didn’t think so.

Socks, Bones

Can’t see how socks would help – with a little dexterity, a smart dog could drag them right off. 

Many experts advise NOT to give dogs bones, so that’s replacing one unhealthy thing with another, isn’t it?

Health Care

As a loving caregiver for your dog, you want her to live a great life.  You can do many things to ensure that great life.  Be sure she sees the vet at least annually.  Work with your vet.  Take advantage of the numerous advances in veterinary medicine.  These allow our dogs to live longer and healthier lives. 

Nutritious Food

A well-balanced diet includes foods that are good quality and in correct amounts.  To sustain a healthy lifestyle, your baby needs the right nutrients. 

You can always ask your vet to recommend the best foods for him, as well as what amount is best.  Food that is good for your dog doesn’t have to be the most expensive, either.  Healthy, tasty reasonably priced foods are available. 

Yorkie eating.

Daily Exercise

Some dogs – like some people – are naturally active.  Some others are couch potatoes.  In any case, all dogs need some daily exercise, whether that is walking around the neighborhood or going to a dog park where she can run and play with other dogs to her heart’s content. 

Physical movement helps strengthen your dog’s muscles and keeps her weight under control.  Exercise also helps her immune system.

The Need for Training

Training is the act of handling and controlling your dog’s behavior in a way that removes unwanted conduct, so you can be sure you and your four-legged friend are welcome everywhere.  Besides that, you will have eliminated the possibility of any unpleasant interactions with impatient or intolerant people. 

Benefits of Dog Training

We’ve all heard – at one time or another – people compare having a dog with having a child.  In many ways, that’s true.  Raising a canine is as much a responsibility as raising a child.  It is a huge undertaking!  Consider how much that is magnified if your new family member is a rescue or a puppy. 

Out for a stroll.

We train our dogs so we can have a friend that can accompany us with the assurance that he is well behaved. It is the method used to instill in your dog the proper canine behavior to ensure that he or she is welcome in the various social situations that will arise. Training is necessary to support the relationship between pets and people in our society.

No one wants to be in the company of a child who hasn’t been taught how to behave around other people, and no one wants to be in the company of the pooch that hasn’t been properly trained, either.

You don’t want people saying about your dog or your child:  “WHERE is his mother?” 

Keeping the Dog Safe

The reason many people get pets is that they want the companionship.  Training a dog doesn’t just mean teaching him or her to shake hands, go fetch the ball or to roll over in order to make its fur parent happy and/or to entertain friends.

Yes, a part of training a dog is working on voice commands (e.g., sit, speak, stay).  These allow the caregiver to have voice control, and can prevent the dog from jumping fences or running away – or worse, getting run over because he or she is out of control.

Good training will make life much more pleasurable for the dog and the caregiver.

Saving Your Dog’s Life

The majority of dogs living in households have had zero formal training.   To prevent thousands of dogs from being surrendered to shelters, it is imperative that every dog receive good canine training. 

Among the main reasons a dog finds himself in a shelter are preventable behavioral issues.  Investing just a little time to teach your dog the proper ways to interact with humans will not only make living with him easier, it could also save his life. 

Bonding Occurs

Just like a child to their mother or father, proper training will allow a canine and their family to bond. 

Because everyone involved knows what is expected, a strong, comfortable relationship can form between the canine and the human.  As the relationship deepens, each can make discoveries about the other.  The human learns what agitates the dog or makes him happy, and the dog learns what body language and which tones of voice contain what meaning (e.g., happy, disappointed, pleased, etc.).

As a result of these understandings, trust is built between the human and the dog.  This is the basis of a lifelong relationship. 

Easier Traveling

Well-trained dogs are less stressed when they travel.  As such, they can quickly adapt to the new environment.  For long-distance travel, owners will be able to better control their companion, and that helps the animal stay alert and happy while allowing them to govern their behavior.

Allows for Social Adaptation

If you have a rescue dog or a new puppy that gets anxious around people or other animals, training is vital.  Coping mechanisms can be taught that will help relieve social stressors.  Social stressors, as you undoubtedly know, can lead to irrational and unwanted behavior. 

A benefit of training is that the dog’s caregiver will pick up on social cues – such as when the dog is anxious – and respond quickly.  This quick response will prevent any erratic behavior or biting a dog or another person.

One Last Thought

Our responsibility, as the leader of the pack, is to provide a safe and nurturing environment within which our dog(s) and kids learn to care for and interact with each other.  That starts in childhood for our kids and in puppyhood for our dogs. 

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Resources

Blue Pearl Pet Hospital

https://bluepearlvet.com/medical-articles-for-pet-owners/atopic-dermatitis-in-pets/#:~:text=Atopic%20dermatitis%20is%20a%20pruritic,%2C%20lick%2C%20bite%20or%20scratch

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/about.html

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